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Willstrop Ends 10-Year Losing Streak To Topple National Rival Matthew At ToC

It was a case of 20th time lucky for England’s James Willstrop in today’s second round of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York when the 2010 champion beat 2012 champion Nick Matthew in five tense games to end a ten-year losing streak to his national rival.

The two former world number ones, who also hail from same English county of Yorkshire, were meeting for the 58th time in all competitions and the 35th time on the PSA World Tour, since first playing in the British Open qualifiers in June 2001.

But Matthew had had the upper hand since December 2007, when Willstrop last beat his nemesis in the English Open final in Matthew’s home town of Sheffield.  Matthew’s 19 successive victories since then featured nine final clashes, including the World Championship climax in 2010.

Unseeded Willstrop took the opening game on the all-glass court in the Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal – but Matthew battled back to open up a 2/1 lead as it looked as if his winning run would continue.

Willstrop, however, was playing the match of his life – hitting sublime winner after winner to halt the decline before running out the shock 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 victor in 73 minutes.

“I’m very, very happy to be in the next round. To beat a champion like Nick is good, especially with the rivalry we’ve had.  Not many people beat Nick,” said Willstrop.

“I’ve been working out how to get the better of him for many years now.  I had to play accurately against him.

“It was just a game of squash – I tried not to let the history and baggage get in the way.”

“But he’s got a game which is tough for me.  He’s incredibly strong.  Certain players, like him and Nicol David, have a way of getting stronger when they’re behind.

“I didn’t let myself get complacent when I was ahead in that fifth game.  I think we both played the ball well – the accuracy there today was ridiculous and the court took it beautifully.

“Win or lose, the important thing to me was that I was playing well and those are the goals I had.”

Later in the day, a career-long winning run was extended when German number one Simon Rösner beat his European rival and close friend Nicolas Müller, the Swiss number one, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6.

The victory – his 11th in a row over Müller since 2005 – takes Rösner into the quarter-finals for the fourth year in a row.

It was standing room only for the men’s evening session of play and the fans got their money’s worth of standout squash. World No. 2 Karim Abdel Gawad was stretched to the limit by Australia’s Cameron Pilley, but earned his trip the quarterfinals by winning the fifth game, 11-9. Qualifier Paul Coll continues to gather momentum as he eliminated Ali Farag in four hard-fought games.

In the women’s championship, England number one Laura Massaro not only had her opponent against her in the opening first round match of the day, but also the partisan crowd, who were giving their all to hometown girl Olivia Blatchford. The 23-year-old New Yorker, who survived two tough battles against Egyptians to qualify for the main draw, was marking her fourth first round meeting with world No.5 Massaro in 12 months – and looking for her first win.

But Massaro was too strong and fought off a determined threat by her US opponent, winning 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 in 30 minutes.  “I was aware that I wasn’t just playing against an American, but a New Yorker too,” said Massaro afterwards. “I had to make sure my intensity was there from the beginning.”

Another stalwart of the international game also reserved her place in the second round.  Egypt’s No.8 seed Omneya Abdel Kawy – who played in the first edition of the women’s event in 2002 – defeated fellow countrywoman Hania El Hammamy, a 16-year-old qualifier – 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 in 41 minutes.

Kawy, three times a quarter-finalist, now progresses to face Victoria Lust, the 16th seed from England who beat Belgian qualifier Nele Gilis 13-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9.

India’s Dipika Pallikal Karthik produced the first upset of the day in the women’s event when she ousted England’s No.14 seed Emily Whitlock 13-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-3.

Pallikal, runner-up in 2012, now lines up against second seed Raneem El Welily who defeated qualifier Hollie Naughton of Canada for a place in the quarter-finals.

Hometown heroine Amanda Sobhy, whose fans waved their Sobhy towels enthusiastically during her match, won a commanding victory over Australia’s Donna Urquhart.

In the most emotional match of the day, Joelle King defeated former world no. 2 Natalie Grinham, the wildcard entry. The 38-year-old mother of two had chosen to make the ToC her last event before retiring from professional squash. Rachael Grinham, a former world no. 1, coached her sister during the match and husband Tommy Berden, a former touring pro who is now the Chief Commercial Officer of the PSA, watched from the stands, as did many of the women players.  “I love this game, but I have decided that I need to be able to be at home to take care of my two young sons,” an emotional Grinham said after the match. “I shall miss all the players on tour who are like sisters to me and I shall miss all of the wonderful fans.”

J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY
January 15, 2017 – Women’s First Round results

 

[4] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 11-3, 11-6, 11-4 (30m)
[8] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [Q] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (41m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt [14] Emily Whitlock (ENG) 13-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-3 (39m)
[16] Victoria Lust (ENG) bt [Q] Nele Gilis (BEL) 13-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9 (58m)
[11] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 11-6, 8-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8 (64m)
[10] Joelle King (NZL) bt [WC] Natalie Grinham (NED) 11-4, 11-9, 11-7 (27m)
[7] Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Donna Urquhart (AUS) 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (24m)
[2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt [Q] Hollie Naughton (CAN) 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 (23m)

 

 

J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY
January 15, 2017 – Men’s Second Round results

 

James Willstrop (ENG) bt [4] Nick Matthew (ENG)  11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 (73m)
[8] Simon Rösner (GER) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 111-6, 11-8, 11-6 (41m)
[2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 (82m)
[Q] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [6] Ali Farag (EGY)  11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7 (60m)

 

Ends

Howard Harding

15 January 2017

 

 

 

 

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